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WHAT OTHERS SAY: 45 NFL seasons and 16 coaches. Is it something we said?

Thursday, January 5, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

If Afghanistan is the "Graveyard of Empires" and Miami University of Ohio is the "Cradle of Coaches," then St. Louis is the "Graveyard of Coaches."

In the 45 seasons that the National Football League has operated here (there was a not-entirely-unpleasant interlude from 1988 through 1994 when we were gridless) 16 men served as head coach for either the Cardinals or the Rams. That's an average tenure of not quite three seasons.

That's not, as the saying goes, as bad as hockey — the St. Louis Blues also have operated for 45 seasons and have run through 24 coaches, and five of them had two separate stints — but it's still pretty bad.

The latest football coach to be handed his hat was Steve Spagnuolo, whose teams managed to win only 10 games in his three seasons. The record actually is deceptive: His teams bracketed a seven-win campaign in 2010 with a single-victory season in 2009 and a two-win season this year.

This apparently was not the kind of progress that Stan Kroenke, the new Rams' owner, was looking for. So on Monday, he had a team executive call Mr. Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney, the Rams' general manager, and give them the bad news.

People worth $3.2 billion don't do their own dirty work. Still, being fired secondhand is not the worst way a St. Louis football coach ever got whacked. After the final game of the 1985 season, Cardinals coach Jim Hanifan trudged off the field at Busch Stadium II and found that the locks to his office door had been changed.

We will leave it to the experts on the sports page to analyze the repercussions of Spagnuolo's firing. Our concern, from a broad civic perspective, is to look at the pattern of all these fired coaches and wonder if maybe it's not their fault, but ours.

We had the same baseball manager for 16 years. But it was Tony La Russa, so maybe that doesn't count.

We've had the same mayor for 11 years. The same Democratic cabal has been in charge in St. Louis County since 1991 and the same Republican cabal in St. Charles County since 1995. As a community, we tend to be averse to change, or at least skeptical of it.

The owners of the football and hockey teams have defied that tendency. Hockey fans seem satisfied with good effort and no cups. Football fans, having been jilted once, spoiled for a couple of years and now threatened with another jilting, just want somebody to love them back.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.


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